x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Benefits seen from inflow of patients

Medical tourism can have advantages and disadvantages for the national health system.

ABU DHABI // The medical tourism industry is still fairly new, and countries that have courted tourist-patients have yet to see what long-term effects they have on their medical systems. The benefits are obvious at first glance. By attracting foreigners, money comes into the medical system from outside. The larger facilities are able to provide more specialised care and attract more talented medical staff. "For some problems you need a big number. You can't open a research centre for a small number," said Nasser al Budoor, the assistant undersecretary of international relations and health affairs at the Ministry of Health. "A cardiothoracic surgeon needs at least 300 procedures per year to maintain the best practice model," said Dr Haidar al Yousuf, the director of the transition team, Dubai Health Authority. "If the whole of Dubai only requires 50, then the surgeon will not be able to maintain an adequate level of skill to participate in a best practice system." To attract medical tourists, it will also be necessary to raise quality to internationally recognised standards. Hospitals across the country have already achieved different types of accreditation. While that will help to attract tourists, it will also raise the standard of care for the nation. "Dubai is planning to become the benchmark in healthcare service," Dr Yousuf said. "We are not there right now but we have a very strong, very aggressive plan to get there very, very soon. "We need to ensure that the tourism market doesn't mess with that in some ways." The new plans will enhance the services available at hospitals, allowing them to access several markets at once. "Now we are moving for hospitals to be private. You don't keep a hospital as a hospital now, you want to keep it like a shopping mall." amcmeans@thenational.ae